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Sunday, February 14, 2010

What Is Prophecy?

     One of the more rewarding aspects to blogging (for me) is it provides me the opportunity to have various colleagues (and dear friends) as "guest authors" ~ especially if their contributions chime with my doctrinal positions. It is rare to find a person who has been able to present a strong hermenuetical case concerning my belief that much (if not all) of the "predicting" of future events (which is rampant on media and the Internet) to come, based on the "predicters" so-called ability to discern news items and thereby call it "Prophecy."
      The word "Prophecy" has evolved from its original meaning and much of the material that has been produced for centuries concerning events anticipated in these "last days" (such as earthquakes, storms, political upheavel in certain countries) has distorted God's word to the point that such activities (such as date-settings) has lead the church down the wrong path.
     I write much about this problem, having studied the issue for over 35 years. And yet, a dear friend of mine wrote an article that speifically points out the fallacy of implying that to  "prophesy" means predicitng future events. With that in mind, read (and download) this article and use it as a resource when any of your friends and colleagues believe they have been blessed with the Holy Spirit gift of predicting future events. Please meet, Brother Roger Hubbard:

What Is Prophecy?
By
Roger Hubbard

(Originally posted on The End Times Passover web site on 2/7/08)

Prayer is man talking to God in a known tongue.
The gift of tongues is man talking to God in a supernatural language. In I Cor. 14:2, Paul says:     “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit”.

Prophecy is:
1)              God talking to man- a supernatural utterance in a known or familiar language.
2)              A merging of the divine and the human.
3)              A cooperative effort/intimate partnership between the Holy Spirit and you. One partner is perfect the other is imperfect (Sometimes we don’t prophesy with 100% high fidelity).
4)              The result of a supernatural overflow. The product of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
5)              The actual living testimony of Jesus. In Rev. 19:10 it says: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”.
6)              God’s direct channel to us. His “pipeline” to us. It allows God to communicate with man in the same manner prayer allows man to communicate with God.

Old Testament prophecy dealt with every aspect of Jewish life including the spiritual, messianic, social, political, economic, military, environmental, family, health, and agricultural issues. It also exposed national sin and publically affirmed national rulers. Prophecy addressed all manner of local, regional, national and world issues, especially in the affairs of Israel, its neighbors and even its enemies.

Did you know that God considered Abraham a prophet? When Abimelech King of Gerar took Abraham’s wife Sarah- God spoke to him in a dream and said: “Now then restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are yours.”

Did you know that God promises to raise-up prophets? Moses, when talking about the forbidden pagan practices of the people they were about to dispossess, said in Gen 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed”

New Testament prophecy, in contrast to Old Testament prophecy, is highly seasoned with grace, love and mercy. It reflects two things: The redemptive nature of God (it aims to redeem and restore everything lost in the fall and to return to a new Kingdom era) and the personality of Jesus Christ (Sacrificial love incarnate). In I Cor. 14:1, the great chapter on gifts of prophecy and tongues, Paul says: Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” All New Testament prophecy strengthens, encourages and comforts. In I Cor. 14:3 Paul says: But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” This is a guideline on Prophecy directly from the Apostle Paul. Prophecy always conveys hope and increases faith. Prophecy reminds us of His unending love and grace in guiding our lives, while imploring our continued trust in His wisdom. Prophecy challenges us to obey His commands.

New Testament prophecy is not:
The gift is not designed to contain revelation (God says statements), direction (You should statements), prediction (God will statements) or chastisement (God punishes statements). It is essentially forth-telling: an immediate explanation of the facts as God sees them. It is a nonrevelatory, nondirective, nonpredictive, and noncorrective  gift.
Traditionally, prophets: Give warnings.  In I Sam. 8:9:  The Lord told Samuel, “Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” This was a classic “And how did that work out for you?” type of question. God is already laughing in advance.

Prepare the People: In Isaiah 40:3 is the classic : “A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord…and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” Amen, isn’t that what we are doing here tonight, preparing the way for the glory of the Lord to be revealed?   Hallelujah!

Point to a time of Restoration and Restitution which means: The Great Giving Back. In Acts 3:21 it says: …”And that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” Restitution of all Satan has stolen from us!

Along with Apostles reveal the Secret Mysteries of Christ. In Eph 3:5 Paul says: “When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery, of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the spirit…”

Help Prepare the Foundation: In Eph. 2: 19-22 Paul says: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” WOW! That’s a big wow!

Tell the People What God is Doing. In Amos 3:7 it says: “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”

Purpose:
The New Testament gift of prophecy has a single purpose. It edifies, exhorts and comforts the believer. In I Cor. 14:4 Paul says: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”

Foundational Gift:
Prophecy is the second of two foundational gifts of the Holy Spirit. In  I Cor. 12: 28 Paul says: “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

Available to All:
The gift of prophecy is available to all Spirit-filled believers. In I Cor. 14:31 Paul says: “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” Any spirit-filled Christian can hear from God and speak for God (forth-telling). The gift of prophecy is merely one of the supernatural benefits of His marvelous new covenant with the church, and it is available to you today. In Acts 2:17 Peter quotes from the prophet Joel and says: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.” What part of “ALL” don’t we understand? In Acts 21: 8,9 Paul says: “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesaria and stayed at the house of Phillip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.”

The Amos Mandate:
In Amos 7: 14,15 it says:
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel’. Amos was not a professionally trained or educated prophet of any kind but one of the brethren.

Highly Desirable:
As Paul says: “But eagerly desire the greater gifts” (I Cor. 12:31). “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy (I Cor. 14:1). “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified (I Cor. 14:5). “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt (I Thess. 5:19; As it is disallowed in some churches)

An Aid to Evangelism:
“But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand (tongues) comes in while everyone is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (I Cor. 14: 24, 25; Catching the spirit of revival).

The Warning Ministry of the Holy Spirit:
Sometimes the warning ministry of the Holy Spirit is given by a prophet. In Acts 21: 10, 11 it says: “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, the Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles’.” (This is an example of forth-telling: an immediate explanation of the facts as God sees them).

Summary:
A.    Prophecy is a supernatural utterance in a known or familiar tongue.
B.    It is the speaking forth by man of the mind and counsel of God.
C.    It is the divine declaration of what cannot be detected through the five senses or human reasoning.

How Does the Gift of Prophecy Operate? Four Ways.
1  Always by faith. In Rom. 12:6 Paul says: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” To prophesy one must have an aggressive, bold hungry faith. A faith that wants to bless others. A faith that wants to be used by God. How do Spirit-filled Christians prophesy? Always by faith! Every time you prophesy, you prophesy by faith. 
2  Always in love. Love is God’s greatest motivator. To prophesy effectively one must be motivated by a love for God and His people. Faith works by love. In Gal 5:6 Paul reaffirms this: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Prophesy should always be motivated by love.
3  Always by accepting risks and possible failures. Also by embracing experimentation, trial and error and practice. Overcoming the ever-present temptation to quit. Faith is spelled R-I-S-K. There is always risk in obeying God.
4  By understanding and accepting that prophesy is always the result of total submission to the Holy Spirit. Peter says in II Pet. 1:21: “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” And in II Pet. 1:20 it never came by human impulse: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.”

Not Surprisingly, Prophecy must be prophesied.
My former pastor told me that if I received a Word, speak it forth. Don’t bother to analyze, interpret, judge for timeliness or appropriateness. God just wants you to be faithful in delivering and repeating what his Holy Spirit has imparted. The intended form of the gift (its delivery or presentation) separates it from the other eight gifts of the spirit (I Cor. 12: 8-10). Prophecy is felt as a sanctified urge, a stirring, a prompting, a thought, a sudden inspiration, an inner sense or a knowing. I know it in my spirit. I know that I know that I know. It will always take faith to prophesy each and every time you are called upon to do so.

Prophecy: Four Types
There are four types of prophecy listed in the Bible: the prophecy of Scripture, the “spirit” of prophecy, the “gift” of prophecy, and the “office of prophet.” These are defined as:

I.               The Prophecy of Scripture:
The prophecy of scripture means the “closed” canonized prophesies found in the Bible. Peter says in II Pet. 1:20: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” This is the highest level of prophecy: errorless, perfect, “forever settled in heaven”. These prophecies are a part of the infallible orthodoxy of scripture. Examples are the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

II.             The Spirit of Prophecy:
It is a prophetic atmosphere which can inspire any believer to prophesy. In Rev. 19:20:  John says: “For the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.”

Examples are:
The Day of Pentecost:
In Peter’s Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2:15-18, Peter said: “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’” So… if you want revival- prophesy.

Twelve men at Ephesus:
In Acts 19:6-7 Paul baptizes John’s disciples who had not heard of the Holy Spirit: “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.”

The Corinthian Example:
In I Cor. 14: 29-33 Paul says: “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

III.          The Gift of Prophecy:
This is a distinct manifestation of the Holy Spirit given specifically to certain Spirit-filled believers. In I Cor. 12:10 Paul says: “To another… the gift of prophecy.” Not all Christians will have the “gift of prophecy” This “gift” empowers a believer to operate more frequently, more consistently, and with greater accuracy in prophecy than one who occasionally comes under the “spirit of prophecy”. Some would call this level of prophecy a ministry gift (Rom. 12:6, proportional to faith). Still, this level of gifting does not qualify one to be called a prophet. Examples are Phillip’s daughters (Acts 21: 8,9) and the twelve men at Ephesus.

IV.         The Office of Prophet:
This is a five fold, ascension gift. In Eph 4:8 Paul says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” It is a gift of church government: In Eph 4:11 Paul says: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…. A prophet is an anointed and authoritative “equipper” to the body of Christ. He regularly functions in numerous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Along with the gift of prophecy, a prophet will emphasize all the revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit; word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning spirits. Clear revelation, accurate prediction, strategic direction, and necessary correction are a regular part of a prophet’s spiritual weaponry such as Agabus (Acts 11:28). In Acts 13:1, the Amplified Bible describes the prophets at Antioch as, “…inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God…”.

Cessationist arguments are the false demonic arguments of devils which want the Body of Christ to be blind spiritually. The prophets have not died out. Watch out church, here come the prophets!

In Acts 15:32 “And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words and strengthened them.”

Finally, many years ago I prayed to the Lord: “Lord, where have the spiritual gifts of prophecy, signs and miracles and wonders gone?” And he answered me: “They are at your feet where you lay them down.” And I was crushed and after a while I said: “Why Lord?” and He answered me: “You forgot about the Spiritual Tool Box.”  And I remembered that everyone receives a Spiritual Tool Box and when you discover your purpose, you ask the Lord to give you each gift you need like tongues, prophecy, discernment, wisdom, healing, seeing signs etc and you keep from losing them by keeping them in your spiritual tool box. Have you asked Him to refill yours lately?

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Roger Hubbard 2.jpg
Roger W. Hubbard, Ph.D is a Consultant and Formerly Directorate Director, Environmental Pathophysiology Directorate, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. He is retired to Nova Scotia, is an avid hunter and fisherman, and teaches and writes about things theological.
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